Crimes on campus—it’s a phrase that UC Riverside students have become all too familiar with. Property thefts, violent robberies and even rapes have all been reported by UCR students in the past few years.
Amidst the recent talk of campus crimes and public safety, Riverside UCPD Chief of Police Mike Lane offered me an exclusive ride-along through the campus community to talk about the recent robberies that affected the university, the duties of a UCPD officer and the measures the department is taking to prevent further crimes.
Since taking the position in 2006, Lane says the job has shown him just about everything one can imagine: robberies, domestic disturbances and assaults. We were instantly made aware of how potentially serious these crimes could be as soon as we stepped into the vehicle.
“Typically on ride-alongs, what I tell folks is that if [I] get out of the car, just stay in the car,” he said. “If something goes wrong with me and you see me go down or something like that, just run. Don’t get back into this vehicle, just run… But you’ll be fine,” he reassured.
“This car you’re in right now is called the mobile command post,” he explained as we stepped in the vehicle. The car lived up to its name. The first things that caught my eyes were a scanner, a computer and a rifle that rested just inches from the front seats. In the back of the vehicle sat a storage box containing maps, shells and radio communication devices.
A few minutes into the ride-along, we drove past Big Springs Road and near one of the five areas where a series of armed robberies took place just a month ago.
On Jan. 16, 2013, five robberies occurred on and off campus within a one-hour time span. The UCPD and the Riverside PD collaborated in an investigation that led to the eventual arrest of three suspects. Lane stated that the crimes were carefully planned but were foiled all because one of the victims was wise enough to jot down the license plate of the getaway vehicle.
“There was one very smart-thinking student who got a partial plate with a description, which was huge,” he said.
Just days after the robberies, the UCPD and the RPD managed to arrest Xavier Vining, Doneal Lewis Cephus and Markeith Shavers, the three suspects involved in the robberies.
Lane shared his thoughts on the many solutions to fixing crime rates in schools that have been discussed nationally, as well as by the Highlander Editorial Board in this week’s editorial. When asked about the NRA’s proposed idea of allowing assault weapons on campus, Lane stated, “Let me put it to you this way: it’s one thing to buy a weapon and understand how to use it and manipulate it. It’s another thing to actually apply how you’re going to use it. Because once you pull that weapon out, you really got to start considering the fact that, you know, that round is a laser: it will keep going.”
We also discussed the NRA’s proposal to allow faculty and staff to carry weapons on school grounds. Lane was opposed to the idea. When asked if he thinks that police officers are the ones who should deal with violent crimes on campus, he said, “I think so because that’s what we’re trained to do.”
Just as he mentioned training, Lane drove us past the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, a police academy just miles off campus. The academy itself resembles a military boot camp. The facility features a shooting rage, an obstacle course and a field for officers to run and exercise.
“This is where we train,” he said. “One of the reasons I showed you this is because a lot of people think we’re a campus security. We’re law enforcement officers… It’s not all about learning how to take people in custody and running and doing push-ups. It’s also about learning about probable cause, use of force, how to testify in court [and] ways to resolve a conflict.”
Despite his belief that officers are responsible for resolving violent and dangerous conflicts, Lane went on to say that students should also play a role when it comes to preventing crimes in the first place.
“Safety is everybody’s responsibility,” he said.
According to him, 85 to 90 percent of crimes at UCR are property thefts. He advised that students should keep their valuable possessions put away and attended to, especially when walking alone at night.
As we made our way back to UCR, we drove past Linden Avenue. As most UCR students know, the street is notorious for armed robberies and assaults. One of the five robberies on Jan. 16 took place on that street. On Jan. 24, 2013, another near-campus robbery occurred in that same area. The three suspects involved in that robbery were recently arrested as well.
Lane further discussed potential solutions to lower crime rates in such areas of notoriety. He mentioned the possibility of stationing more officers in areas of high crime rates and even adding more security cameras on and near the university. He explained that his department has an ongoing conversation with the city and their camera systems. His plan is to make the use of cameras “more robust.” The best way to do that would be to add more, he said.
Another idea is to have a shuttle or van service. With these services, students would be provided with rides to get from one part of campus to another. It would be an alternative to walking alone in the streets at night when robberies are most common. There are concerns over implementing such a system, however. One of the factors they must take into account is determining who will provide the rides and if the students will even use the services.
“With each and every one of these [potential solutions], we got to look at how sustainable they are,” Lane said.
When the ride-along just about ended, Lane emphasized that another potential solution for students is to take advantage of the services already provided at UCR. These services include the Campus Safety Escort Service, the emergency call boxes and even the police department itself.
“Our response times to this campus are pretty quick,” he reassured. “We’re right here.”